Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Encyclia cordigera Blooming On A SoCal Tree

Ok, maybe there shouldn't be an Encyclia cordigera on EVERY tree in SoCal... but it should certainly be on MOST trees! It does like heat though so the closer to the coast you live the more full sun you'd have to give it.

The large Tillandsia is Tillandsia ehlersiana. Thanks Andy!

I'm uploading this video for my friend Carlos in Brazil...

He doesn't have any videos yet! But I can't complain too much because he does share quite a few photos...

Here are some other links that should hopefully be of some interest...

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Largest/Longest Orchid Seeds?

On 29 June I received a box from a really nice friend.  Thanks friend!  The box contained some super neat mini Tillandsias and a couple tubes of orchid seeds...

Epidendrum wrightii
Schomburkia undulata

The Epi is a species of reed-stem so I was very curious whether its seeds are as exceptional as the other reed seeds that I've sown.  My friend had informed me that the wrightii seeds contain lots of "cotton".  This was interesting to hear because I typically associate cotton with monopodial orchid seeds.  When I saw the wrightii seeds they did indeed look like they had lots of cotton.  Upon closer inspection I realized that, unlike with monopodial orchid seeds, the wrightii cotton was actually part of the seed!

The seeds with long "tails" are the wrightii seeds.  Interspersed with the wrightii seeds are seeds from Epi radicans x Epc Orange Blaze.  Above the penny are seeds of Schomburkia undulata.

Here's what the wrightii seeds looked like after I soaked them for one night...

They clumped together just like Tillandsia seeds do when you put them in water.  Perhaps soaking before sowing isn't the best approach for wrightii seeds!

Here's some basic info about orchid seeds...

The orchid seed has no endosperm.  The seed consists of a simple, dry outer coat with a small mass of undifferentiated cells which form a pro-embryo.  This unit can be easily carried in air currents and may travel long distances before coming to rest.  - Calaway Dodson, Robert Gillespie, The Biology of the Orchids

Some more info...

Numerous mechanisms and devices promote appropriate carriage and secure anchorage.  The buoyancy of orchidaceous "dust" seeds is due not only to small size but also to a large airspace between embryo and testa; wall sculpturing and overall shape (usually fusiform) also help to keep them aloft and may encourage attachment to rough bark.  Tillandsioid bromeliad seeds feature hooked coma hairs for better attachment; similar devices on a much smaller scale adorn microsperms of shootless Chiloschista. - David Benzing, Vascular Epiphytes


Experiments indicate that buoyancy and mobility correlate with the apportionment of mass between the coma and the seed proper.   - David Benzing, Bromeliaceae: Profile of an Adaptive Radiation
More broadly, the epiphytes achieved relatively low terminal velocities at least in part because they allocate proportionally more biomass to the coma vs the seed proper.  Percentages (60.0-61.7%) of the aggregate seed mass represented by the flight apparatus grouped the obligate (T. utriculata and T. fasciculata) and faculative (T. ionochroma) epiphytes together, with saxicolous T. sphaerocephala (41%) as the outlier.  In short, the more consistently bark-dependent the taxon, the greater the relative cost of the coma, the more buoyant its seeds, and the greater the dispersal range.  - David Benzing, Bromeliaceae: Profile of an Adaptive Radiation

All Tillandsia seeds have endosperm.  This makes them heavier than orchid seeds.  In order to achieve greater buoyancy and travel greater distances... the Tillandsia seeds have "parachutes"... aka "comas".  The larger the coma, the more epiphytic the Tillandsia.

Does Epidendrum wrightii have a coma?  Kinda?  We can guess that the point of these appendages is to increase buoyancy and to help the seeds attach to bark.  But why don't other orchid seeds have these appendages?  Maybe they don't need them because they aren't as heavy as the seeds of Epi wrightii?  This would imply that, unlike orchid seeds, the seeds of Epi wrightii do have at least some endosperm.  And if most reed-stem Epis do have some endosperm... then we can guess that Epi wrightii is more epiphytic than most reed-stems.

According to Wikipedia (and Arditti and Ghani)... Epidendrum secundum has the distinction of having the longest seeds in the orchid family... 6.0 mm long.  Let's take another look at the comparison photo I took...

The penny is 19.05 mm in diameter... or around three Epi secundum seeds.  In the above photo we can see that the seeds of the Epi radicans cross have a short tail.  We can guess that Epi secundum seeds have a longer tail.  We can also guess that this is what Arditti and Ghani included in their measurement of the Epi secundum seeds.  So if we're including tails in the measurement of orchid seeds... then the seeds of Epi wrightii are a lot longer than the seeds of Epi secundum.

Are there any reeds with seeds that are longer than wrightii?  If so, then this would imply that they were more epiphytic than wrightii.

There are numerous species of reeds and I've only see a very small fraction of their seeds.  Hopefully this post will encourage people to share photos of their reed seeds.

It's really exciting to discover that wrightii seeds are somewhat similar to Tillandsia seeds.  This gives us some material that's potentially very useful in terms of breeding for orchids that are more epiphytic but have seeds that are easier to germinate (don't require flasking).

Monday, June 6, 2016

Echeveria Epiplus Orchid

Without trimmed bush...

With trimmed bush...

Uploaded for: Echeveria gibbiflora

My Echeveria gibbiflora is trying to win the Guinness World Book Record for tallest Echeveria. I'm guessing that it's around 8 years old because it blooms once a year and I counted around 8 bloomings.

A few years ago I attached a small division of Dendrobium discolor x canaliculatum to the Echeveria. So happy together? So how is the weather? Which orchid would you have chosen?

On the left you can see Kalanchoe beharensis epiplus Encyclia cordigera.

This is the first year that I've attached orchids to a few of my Aloes. I'm pretty sure that, out of all the succulents, Aloes have the most potential in terms of hybridizing to create some super awesome hosts for orchids. Right now there are some species and hybrids that are good hosts... but none of them are super awesome hosts. They are either too slow and/or don't have enough suitably sized and accessible branches. If I had to pick the best one it would probably be Aloe tongaensis. It's relatively fast but still not nearly fast enough.  And it's just a bit large for taking to shows.

A little while back I pollinated my Aloe tenuior with pollen from several different tree Aloes.  Aloe tenuior is a relatively fast grower that makes somewhat upright branches.  The branches are on the skinny side though so I tried crossing it with Aloes that have much thicker branches/trunks.  Pods formed and ripened, I sowed the seeds and now I have four seedlings.  From the getgo they looked stouter than tenuior but I couldn't be quite certain that they weren't selfings.  It's been kinda driving me nuts.  Their stoutness might just be a function of somewhat different culture (more sun, more water, fertilizer, etc.) but I'm leaning towards the idea that they are hybrids.  With what though?!  I didn't keep track of which pollen went in which flowers.

This last weekend my friend Michelle and I walked around my front yard comparing one of the seedlings with its potential pollen donors.  We narrowed the list down to these two Aloes...

Aloe dichotoma
Aloe Hercules

Woah!  It would be pretty wild if either of these two Aloes really was the pollen donor!  And normally I wouldn't jump the gun like this but I really want to encourage anybody and everybody to try and reduplicate these crossings in order to provide some evidence for, or against, the possibility of compatibility.  Of course with the main goal being to create/proliferate some super awesome hosts for orchids.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Prosthechea vitellina x Green Hornet

Post on Epiphyte Society of Southern California (ESSC) Facebook page


Next weekend (June 11, 12) is the Fern and Exotic Plant Show at the Los Angeles Arboretum.  Dan Asbell will be selling blooming size Prosthechea vitellina x Green Hornet orchids in 3" pots for $20 dollars.  Roberta Fox has been growing this cross near the coast and you can see a photo of it on her website...

Prosthechea vitellina is a cooler grower while Green Hornet is a warmer grower.  Will the cross grow when it's cooler and when it's warmer?  If so, then it will be an especially good orchid for growing outdoors year around here in Southern California!

Besides being a cooler grower, Prosthechea vitellina is pollinated by hummingbirds.  Will the cross also be pollinated by hummingbirds?  Let's find out!

Also be sure and check out the Orchid Society of Southern California (OSSC) auction on June 11 at 2pm!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Exceptional Seeds

Forum thread: Exceptional Seeds


Check out this thread... Some things currently in bloom. Yeah, they aren't orchids... but if you scroll down you'll see some nice propagation going on.

Succulents are relatively easy to grow from seed. In other words... you don't need to flask them. Which means... what? How different would the succulent hobby be if succulent seeds did require flasking? How different would the orchid hobby be if orchid seeds did not require flasking?

I've mentioned in a couple threads that I've successfully germinated some reed-stem Epidendrum seeds without flasking them. I basically used the same technique that I use for succulent seeds, Begonia seeds, Gesneriad seeds and so on.

I'm guessing that, unlike the seeds of most orchids, the seeds of some reed-stem Epi species contain enough nutrients to germinate on their own. It's just a guess though because the only way to be certain that absolutely no facilitative fungus was involved would be to flask the sterilized seeds without any nutrients. Which I'm probably not going to do...

Instead, I've been going around sticking Epi secundum pollen in different flowers...

- Barkeria cyclotella x Bardendrum Terusan: 1 pod nearly ripe (25 Jan)
- Brassavola digbyana x nodosa: 1 pod developing (5 Apr) and 1 pod around half mature (23 Feb)
- Cattleya nobilior: 1 pod developing (5 Apr)
- Cattleya Big White Floof: 2 pods developing (5 Apr)
- Epc. Cerina 'Nadia': 2 pods around half mature (3 Mar)
- Prosthechea cochleata: 3 pods nearly mature (27 Dec)

For some of these it's a bit surprising that pods have even started to develop. And, interestingly enough, this is pretty much the same list of orchids that I've attempted to pollinate with pollen from Epi secundum. Even though it's a pretty small sample group it seems like many, or even most, orchids in the Cattleya alliance are receptive to Epi secundum pollen.

Here are the registered intergeneric crosses with Epi secundum as the pollen parent....

- Epicatanthe Morningstar Sunshine = Cattlianthe Panache Domaine x Epidendrum secundum
- Epicatanthe Party Blossom = Cattlianthe Hawaiian Party x Epidendrum secundum
- Epicatanthe Saturn's Rings = Cattlianthe Golden Wax x Epidendrum secundum
- Epicattleya Purple Passion = Cattleya intermedia x Epidendrum secundum

That's the entire list! And they were all made by the same nursery... Rex Foster Orchids.

I'm guessing that crosses with Epi secundum as the pollen parent aren't very spectacular. But, some reed-stem intergeneric crosses aren't too shabby... Reed-stem Epidendrum Hybrids. Personally, I'd be pretty happy if I could easily grow Epicattleya Orange Blaze from seed!

Epc Orange Blaze is 75% reed-stem. What are the chances that it can easily grow from seed? Coincidentally, there's one currently on eBay... Epidendrum "Orange Blaze", Orchidée, Orchid... in France.

Here's a clue regarding whether 50% or higher reed-stem Epi crosses might be able to easily germinate from seed...

One of the oldest artificial epidendrum hybrids is Epidendrum O'brienianum, a cross between E. radicans and a member of the E. secundum complex (Epidendrum evectum). The E. secundum influence predominates in that the column is straight and the lip is uppermost with a small fleshy callus. Epidendrum O'brienianum is a common garden plant in subtropical areas; spontaneous seedlings occur in varying colors. This hybrid sometimes "escapes" from the garden and may appear to be native in areas as far apart as Mexico and Africa. Unlabled plants in gardens and greenhouses are likely to be hybrids, and they may have almost any combination of reed-stem species in their background. These epidendrums are usually tetraploids, so that the Epidendrum parent predominates in crosses with Cattleya or Laelia. Epicattleyas of this type could easily pass for pure reed-stems in dim light, but they always have at least the tip of the column free from the lip. - Robert L. Dressler, Will the Real Epidendrum ibaguense Please Stand Up?

If the crosses themselves are strongly influenced by the reed-stem parent... then you'd figure that the same would be true of their seeds. This would mean that there's a decent chance that the seeds of 50% reed-stem crosses can be easily germinated. If it is relatively easy to germinate 50% reed-stem seeds... then, in theory, many people would be happy to hybridize accordingly... and, by the law of truly large numbers, we'd expect to see at least a few 50% reed-stem crosses that we'd be happy to purchase or trade for. Over time there would be an increase in the supply of seeds from desirable crosses. These seeds would be relatively easy to germinate... so as their supply increased... there would be a logical and corresponding increase in total happiness.

With more and more people happily growing orchids from seed we would also expect to see faster climatic convergence. Some seedlings are always going to be better suited to any given conditions. So more seedlings grown would mean faster adaptation. As a result, there would be more and more orchids growing outdoors year around in colder and/or drier areas. Basically...

more seedlings -> more difference -> more progress

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Tillandsias - Seeds Dispersed By Wind

Here are some super exciting Tillandsia videos...

This Syzygium jambos is downwind of my Cedar tree.    Tillandsia volunteers make pruning a bit more interesting!

And here's a photo of my highest epiphyte...

Tillandsia ionantha -  My Highest Epiphyte

This Tillandsia ionantha clump is over 3 stories high.  As you can see by the 1/4" polytube... it's watered via drip... twice a week at night during summer.   Other than the fairly infrequent winter rain... I get the feeling that it doesn't get any water on its leaves.  So I'm guessing that its roots can and do absorb moisture.

It's entertaining watching the hummingbirds go up and down my Cedar tree visiting the different plants in bloom... Tillandsias, Gesneriads, Echeverias and so on.  The tree is a vertical buffet for hummingbirds!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Stronger Bees And Smarter Raccoons

Reply to reply: What Are You Carrying?


The problem, as I see it, is that the ability to hold and carry multiple objects isn't limited to humans. - Quokkastan

But I've never argued that humans are the only animals with linvoid1.  I've argued that humans are the most linvoid1.

And humans aren't even necessarily the best at it. - Quokkastan

What animals are more linvoid1 than humans?

You've side-stepped the issue by saying that the mental faculties required to see value in multiple items, in holding on to them, and in combining them in creative ways, also counts.  But that essentially is human intelligence.  An enormous part of it in any case.
So what you're ultimately arguing is that human intelligence created human intelligence. - Quokkastan

I'm arguing that our exceptional intelligence is the result of linvoid3... which is the result of linvoid1.
Take a look at this photo...

Carnivorous Cattleya

The large white flower is from a Cattleya orchid that is growing on my tree.  A honey bee visited the flower and died as a result.  The Cattleya didn't intentionally kill the bee.  There aren't any carnivorous orchids.  The bee entered the flower and got stuck to the orchid's built in "glue".  The bee wasn't able to free itself and died.  If the bee had been able to free itself... then it would have continued deeper into the flower where it would have been rewarded with some nectar... or been tricked?  Some orchids are notoriously deceptive.  In any case, the bee would have turned around and, just as it was about to exit, the flower would have deposited its pollen onto the bee's gluey back.  When the bee entered into the next orchid flower... the pollen on its back would have gotten stuck exactly where the bee had gotten stuck to.

The bee essentially died during sex.  Well... it died while it was attempting to facilitate orchid sex.  The same thing could have been said for me if I had fallen out of the tree while attempting to pollinate the Cattleya.

Neither the orchid nor the bee are native to California or to the US.  The orchid is a hybrid but its ancestors are all native to the Americas.  The bee isn't even native to the Americas.

Maybe you find this story fascinating but you're wondering what it has to do with the evolution of human intelligence.  Well... the bee died because it wasn't strong enough to extricate itself from the flower's sticky part.  This is an example of selection pressure.  In this case... we're not talking about linvoid2 (selecting for intelligence)... we're talking about selecting for strength.  The bee was killed because it was too weak.  It wasn't strong enough to survive the orchid's "gauntlet".

Right now California doesn't have very many people who grow Cattleya orchids outdoors.  This means that the pressure that Cattleyas exert on California bees is vanishingly small.  It's imperceptible.  But we can imagine that... if more and more people in California started growing Cattleyas... the selection pressure would grow more and more perceptible.  More and more bees would be killed by Cattleyas.  If everybody in California had Cattleyas blooming on their trees... would this kill all the bees in California?  Probably... not.

It's a given that no two bees are equally strong.  Why is it a given?  Because "difference" is the very point of sexual reproduction.  "Difference" allows species to hedge their bets.   "Difference" helps species adjust to constantly changing conditions/circumstances.  More and more people growing Cattleyas is an example of changing conditions.  As more and more weaker bees are killed off... more and more exceptionally strong bees would survive to pass on their genetic material... and the population of bees in California would shift accordingly.

It might help to read this passage...

Sex responds instead to a different mandate, which I will call the mandate of genetic diversity.  Evolution requires imperfect reproduction. In simple organisms with extremely large populations, such as bacteria, genetic mutation supplies the necessary imperfection. In species with more limited populations, including most multicellular organisms, mutation does not occur rapidly enough to permit evolution to operate at high enough speeds to allow species to adapt effectively to changing environmental conditions (in particular, to quickly evolving viruses, bacteria, and other parasites). Here sex - the production of offspring through the mixing of genetic material - comes to the rescue. Populations of creatures that reproduce sexually will be far more genetically diverse than populations of similar size that reproduce without such genetic mixing.  When environmental conditions change, it is more likely that some portion of the sexually reproducing population will already carry the genes necessary to deal with that change. In other words, sex allows us to evolve to meet changing conditions more quickly. 
If genetic diversity is adaptive, we ought to observe the mandate of genetic diversity operating in our choice of mates. And we do. Despite sex, we could reproduce more perfectly, and thereby respond more effectively to the mandate of reproduction, by mating with our closest genetic kin - in other words, through incest. The mandate of genetic diversity, however, predicts the evolution of inhibitions to incest; and, indeed, we all carry such inhibitions, both genetic and learned. The mandate of genetic diversity also predicts that our mating choices will be somewhat random; and, indeed, we often fall in love with unexpected, sometimes even objectively unsuitable, partners. As Pascal observed: "Le coeur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connait point." ("The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows not.")  - Theodore P. Seto, Reframing Evil in Evolutionary and Game Theoretic Terms

If, in the future, California has exceptionally strong bees, then the cause would be the exceptional selection pressure that millions of Cattleyas put on the bees.  Are humans exceptionally strong?  Nope.  But we are exceptionally intelligent.  The cause of our exceptional intelligence was linvoid3 (exceptionally large amounts of linvoid2 (selection pressure on intelligence)).

In the example of the Cattleyas and the bees... the bees changed because their circumstances/conditions changed (more and more Cattleyas were grown in California).  But with our early ancestors... linvoid3 wasn't the result of changing conditions... it was the result of our ancestors themselves changing.  They became more and more bipedal.

With all of this in mind... let's take another look at your argument...

You've side-stepped the issue by saying that the mental faculties required to see value in multiple items, in holding on to them, and in combining them in creative ways, also counts.  But that essentially is human intelligence.  An enormous part of it in any case.
So what you're ultimately arguing is that human intelligence created human intelligence. - Quokkastan

We both agree that our ancestors became more and more bipedal.  We also both agree that this helped them to become more linvoid1.  Becoming bipedal freed up their hands and arms to simultaneously carry different resources (linvoid1).  You're under the impression that I'm arguing that our ancestors became more intelligent because they were more intelligent.  But, as you pointed out, this would be a circular reasoning.

What I'm actually arguing is that linvoid1 caused linvoid3.  Walking upright forced our ancestors to confront complex carrying choices.  How many different things would they have wanted to carry with them when they migrated?  Here are some pretty basic things...

- children
- food
- tools
- weapons

Being able to simultaneously carry more than one thing made this problem very complex.  It wasn't a relatively simple problem of children OR food OR tools OR weapons... it was a complex problem of children AND/OR food AND/OR tools AND/OR weapons.

The complexity of this problem resulted in linvoid3.   Whenever anybody went anywhere... they were confronted with a complex math problem.  Individuals that were exceptionally good at solving these complex math problems were more likely to survive and shift the population in the direction of more intelligence.

The complex math problem is, more specifically, a complex economic problem.  The problem is how to allocate resources in order to maximize benefit.

All organisms are confronted with the problem of how to allocate resources... even plants.  The Cattleya on my tree has to decide how to allocate its limited resources between growing and blooming (reproducing).  Insects can allocate more resources than plants can.  This means that insects are confronted with more complex economic problems than plants.  Mammals can allocate more resources than insects can... which means that mammals are confronted with more complex economic problems than insects.  Out of all the mammals... humans can allocate the most resources... which means that humans are confronted with the most complex economic problems.

The more complex the economic problems.... the more intelligence required to solve them.  Humans are the most intelligent animals... which reflects the fact that humans solve the most complex economic problems.  Our ability to solve the most complex problems reflects the fact that we can allocate the most resources.  And what, exactly, allows us to allocate the most resources?  Linvoid1.

In theory we could select for raccoons that are more and more bipedal.  Doing so would make them more linvoid1... which would result in linvoid3 and voila!  Raccoons would be just as intelligent as we are.  The first thing you saw when Seldon resurrected you would be a raccoon checking your vitals.